THEY are back. Like an unwelcome, alt-right, second cousin twice removed who lives abroad but who thankfully hasn’t been able to visit for 18 months because of the pandemic. The random sweats or hot flushes, so much part and parcel of my early fifties, have returned.

For the last three months, like a rusty old boiler that needs replacing, my internal thermostat seems to be running amok and no amount of fans, iced water and running outdoors flapping my clothes wildly seems to help. This is a heat so vicious, I find it impossible to concentrate and have even found myself plotting how I can get a job back in a building I used to work in, solely because it had freezing cold concrete pillars in the fire escape that I could, unseen, wrap my arms around for 30 seconds of blissful relief.

What is this cruelty, that two years after the symptoms of menopause seemed to be easing up, the most visible and disconcerting one for me has staged an encore? I for one am not cheering.

I had such plans for my post menopausal world. There were Munros to be climbed, 5Ks to be run, faraway lands to be explored. Instead, one morning, I sweated my way up a Munro and had to stop so often to cool myself down that my climbing partner said he was afraid we’d not make it down before midnight.

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On the upside, the flushes don’t seem to be accompanied by the brain fogginess and inexplicable rage (usually directed towards my unsuspecting offspring, but could have easily targeted my climbing partner that day), or indeed many of the other physical symptoms, but the ferocity and number of events each day exceeds those of old.

My face, neck and arms are visibly damp and my cheeks pinky red, and not in a good way. I have a close friend in exactly the same predicament and we text each other to describe, blow by blow, particularly bad examples of this maddening phenomenon. It is as if after 40 non-stop years of painful periods, one difficult childbirth, three years of peri-menopause and one full-blown menopause with pretty much all the symptoms wasn’t enough, I appear to be living through Menopause: The Sequel.

The good news is I know about this stuff. I know to wear light clothing, I know to buy a fan, I know what treatments are available to me and, importantly, I know to tell those around me – family, friends and colleagues – what on earth is going on.

Coming from an Asian Muslim background it wasn’t the sort of conversation I ever had with my mum or aunts when they were silently experiencing it, so I had little concept of what was coming my way. There has been so much more awareness around menopause with print and broadcast media mercifully jumping on the bandwagon and helping to demystify and explain what many are experiencing, but have not spoken about before.

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Suddenly, my Twitter feed is awash with doctors specialising in advice for menopausal women right across society. The taboo nature of the menopause, which has been worse in some of our communities than others, is systematically being picked apart, and that has been instantly refreshing.

It is surprisingly liberating to be able to write about it, and to be able to tell my sons exactly why I am having to rush outside when we are in a restaurant or coffee shop together. OK, I admit it’s true to say, currently, they roll their eyes unsympathetically, but I grasp on to the hope that the knowledge will be useful to them as partners, co-workers or friends in the future.

But there is still work to be done. There are 400,000 or so of us going through this at the moment in Scotland, and many feel we’re in a healthcare black spot – too old to be covered by reproductive care, and not old enough to be covered by services for older folk.

But we’re an important group. Let’s not forget that more than one third of the female workforce in Scotland is over the age of 50. Often I have heard the menopause being dismissed as ‘a women’s problem’, but it seems now there is a shift afoot.

Last month Scotland was the first of the UK countries to put in place a Women’s Health Plan which includes developing a menopause and menstrual health workplace policy which would be promoted across the public, private and third sectors.

The Scottish Government wants menopausal women to be supported and well informed so they can make positive choices about what they need both in the workplace and from their healthcare providers.

As my experience of menopause shows, it’s not a one-size fits all; we all experience it differently and so the commitment within the plan to tailor menopause care to more personally meet each woman’s needs, is particularly appealing.

So, despite reports that GPs are particularly over-stretched at the moment, I will be in touch this week to report Menopause: The Sequel, and hope that word of the proposed Women’s Health Plan has reached her, so I might be released from my thrice-daily, sodden trips to Dante’s Inferno.

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